Munich, DusseldorfAfter an emotionally-spirited turn-in and flowery phrases on how Google is steadily improving and making safer users experience, Kent Walker comes to the root of why Google has invited about 200 German and international journalists to the site in Munich. It is “difficult to build trust” and quickly it is lost, says the chief justice. And “Google is built on trust”.
That's why Walker opened a new global hub on behalf of the US tech group in the Bavarian state capital on Tuesday, the Google Safety Engineering Center (GSEC).
By the end of 2019, Google plans to double the existing privacy and data protection team to more than 200 specialists. The site will even grow to more than 1,000 employees by the end of the year.
In a video message, Google CEO Sundar Pichai also announced a € 10 million grant fund to help charitable organizations, universities, academic research organizations, social enterprises, and expert organizations across Europe to address safety issues.
With the opening of the new center and the promotional fund, the Group is showing its seriousness in announcing that it will provide users with more privacy – as announced last week at the I / O Developer Conference. The office in Munich plays an important role in visualizing the new requirements of Mountain View and responding to demands from politics and society.
The choice of location is no coincidence. “Germany stands for quality in engineering, whether in the automotive, the solar industry or in other areas,” said Google Manager Stephan Micklitz, director of “Engineering Privacy” at the Data Protection Center. There is a second, typical German feature: the sensitivity for privacy and data security.
Based on the entertainer Frank Sinatra said Micklitz, who walked ungooglehaft in a gray suit across the stage: “If you can make a job here, you can make it anywhere.”
The calculus: If Google manages to correct the reputation as a data vampire in and from Germany – the country that stands for privacy like no other – that should sweep away the resistance elsewhere. Germany becomes the blueprint for how Europeans perceive Google in terms of online security, privacy and privacy.
50 million euro penalty
What Europe specifically has in mind, Google had to experience this year already very painful. Because of several violations of the General Data Protection Regulation (DSGVO), the Group must pay 50 million euros, as the French data protection authority CNIL announced in January.
When asked, the Google managers in Munich react tight-lipped. Against the million fine Google has claimed to have filed an appeal, it is in an “open discussion” with the French Data Protection Authority.
The new center in Munich and the millions of funds have “nothing” to do with regulators, many years ago they began investing “money, time and other resources” in protecting users, Walker said. Google products should be helpful and at the same time safe for users, otherwise they would eventually go away.
A spokeswoman leads after the press conference through the colorful Google office, in which people from 60 countries work. Past a buffet with date balls, fruit and mint water. Rainwater flush toilets, sofas, wicker chairs hanging from the ceiling, a miniature golf course and rooms with green ferns growing down from their ceilings. The offices are called “Isarvalley”, “Bavarian Forest” or “Giasing”, that's the name of the Munich district “Giesing” in Bavarian.
The image that Google wants to send from Munich to the world: You are modern, vital, cosmopolitan and now also: very safe.
Many privacy products have been developed in Munich, including “Google Account” – a centralized overview where users can review and manage their privacy settings.
Only a few hours after Micklitz and his team launched the Google Account in 2009, the site went offline again, with so many people visiting the site at the same time, Micklitz says with Münchener Zungenschlag. According to Google, more than 20 million people now use this feature daily, where the team continues to work “on a continuous basis”.
In addition, additional functions will be added during the year. In the future, users will not be able to search for a long time, but will be able to reach their privacy settings with just one click and then reach the control settings with a second click.
The incognito mode, which allowed users to surf on the Google Chrome browser without data being recorded, Google also wants to expand on its services Youtube, Maps and search.
The Activity Log, which shows users which pages they have visited, will soon provide the ability to delete searches from a certain period of time. This way, users have the option of only holding up for the last three months and paying off the remainder of the network.
Google made these announcements at the Developers' Conference I / O last week. It was a remarkable statement: The Internet giant has built a highly profitable advertising business.
Last year, it contributed 85 percent to the $ 137 billion sales of the parent company Alphabet – it is thus the basis for an stock market valuation of nearly 800 billion dollars, as well as for investments in future projects such as autonomous driving and biotechnology. With a market share of 31 percent, Google is the # 1 online ad.
Marketers can use the company's services to play ads to specific audiences. Factors such as age, whereabouts but also personal interests are taken into account. With this concept, the Group is a role model for the Internet in its current form: many companies offer their services and content for free, but advertise.
In recent years, however, the criticism of this model has become increasingly loud and frequent, first in Europe, later in the US. And with the scandal surrounding the company Cambridge Analytica, which had misappropriated information from millions of Facebook users, the issue of data protection was also on the political agenda. The US Congress also invited Google boss Pichai to a hearing.
The mixture of public pressure, political threats and the development of the zeitgeist is having an effect. For example, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg promises to focus the company on private and confidential communication in the future, of course without giving up the news feed with the lucrative advertising business.
And Google boss Pichai called the data protection meanwhile as one of the most important topics of this time – he should therefore not be a luxury good. A swipe at the competitor Apple, which advertises the iPhone, inter alia, with the protection of privacy, but also sold at premium prices.
So what does it mean for the business model if Google actually limits its access to data? Kent Walker weighed down during his visit to Munich. The company earns “90 percent” of the money with advertising that is played only on the basis of search terms, not through personal user information. So there is no contradiction to make Google products better and at the same time safer.
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